Hosting Guests? 6 Ways to Rethink Your Home Drinks BarWritten by Gavin Humphreys
If your drinks night were a theater production, the bar is the stage.
This is where the action for the evening’s entertainment will take place. Where the bottles are uncorked with a pop, the glasses clinkle, and the drinks are poured with a dramatic swish.
Here you show off your best glassware and bottles of fine liquor. The framing is everything.
It’s up to you to decide if your stage is a grandiose La Scala type affair, a more rustic Shakespeare’s Globe, or maybe a stylish cinema theater.
This is my second post of four on how to host a great evening of Scotch Whisky, but it really doesn’t matter what your tipple is: the stage defines the evening, don’t underestimate its importance.
Built-in (visible or hidden)
Your cabinet might be part of the built-in features of the house. Perhaps alongside the library or the record collection.
One advantage of this is its subtlety. Many houses have built in cabinets and, with wooden doors, most guests would never know it’s a drinks bar until it is opened up to reveal your collection.
Glass doors can allow you to always discreetly show off your best glassware.
Quite the opposite - this is the *B*A*R* and everybody knows it. This is called going the full hog.
This can range from a corner of the room to an entire length of a wall. The options for design are endless, from exposed wood, to modern looking metal or glass.
The big advantage of this is that you will not lack for space. You can store all your bottles and drinking paraphernalia, and have the bartop available to prepare your drinks.
Combine it with a top sound system to really up the atmosphere.
This is the luxury option.
Only words of caution are - don’t be gaudy. Don’t go OTT. Keep it stylish.
The traditional drinks bureau or cabinet is hard to beat. This is pure class.
A piece of furniture which stands against the wall and is big enough to hold all you need.
It gives off the impression you know what you are doing, and are in control of the evening, without taking over an entire room, as a full bar would.
You can buy new, or keep an eye out in antique stores and garage sales - you might find something magical.
My friend Daibhidh Mòr turned up at my house one snowy evening with a whisky cabinet under his arm. Seriously.
He is a giant of a fellow, but it’s not such a feat as it may sound. In effect Daibhidh had his whisky selection in a chill box.
This is your improv street theater, the-world’s-my-stage option.
When you think about it, why take a hip flask on your camping trip if you can take a bar?
You can let your imagination run wild on this one - there are plenty of options out there to buy, but this is also an opportunity for a little DIY. You could convert an old travel chest, a large tool-box, or children’s toy chest. If it’s only to go back and fore to the neighbor’s, perhaps a wheelbarrow, or a golf buggy.
These may or may not not be the most classy of inventions, but for an improvised night, or a surprise birthday visit, this could be really handy.
This is somewhere between the cabinet and a mobile bar. It will likely not have a lot of storage space, but is highly versatile.
The most memorable stand-alone drinks cabinets I have seen are two classic styles. One is the globe. Looks great, although in some of them you can only have as little as one bottle or decanter. The other is a converted whisky barrel. Appropriate!
These both can be a fantastic addition to a room, even when not in use. On the other hand, if you’re hosting room is not large, then these are still good options. You can roll them away at the end of the evening (with a little care) and you have your space back. Until next time.
It also means you can host in different rooms. If your wife is hosting her girlfriends in the living room, take the bar to the kitchen for your man-time.
They’ll need their own bar.
That brings us onto the question of where it is best to host a whisky evening.
If you have a dedicated bar room then there is no question.
Otherwise, the obvious location is the living room - easy to imagine your evening in the most comfy surroundings, maybe leaning on a fireplace as you swirl that fine golden malt…
Equally a study or a library are ideal. These are the kind of rooms which lend themselves to a great evening enjoyed amongst close friends.
The man cave is another of these options, and you can design it to your own liking. If you have a man cave which is set up to receive guests, then that is undoubtedly a great way to go (clearly only if it’s for a ‘men’s night’).
Of course not everybody has the pleasure of these extra rooms in their house.
How about the kitchen? Many enjoyable evenings are spent in the kitchen - always the warmest room in the house, and of course near the ice, and the food!
The kitchen option is only for very close friends. If he happens to call by, don’t take the Ambassador of Spain to sit at the kitchen table.
Bedroom? Only if you are planning a romantic whisky evening.
A final option might be an outhouse or the back yard. On a nice summer evening you cannot beat watching the sun set with a lovely whisky.
Back in old, mother Scotland you’d get eaten alive by the midges or covered in snow. But hey-ho, make the most of it if you can!
Another option is to have your ‘whisky bar’ under the house.
The ultimate whisky cabinet is the whisky room. Some of you might be lucky enough to have a Cave or Wine Cellar (or a cellar space ripe for conversion!).
This is an ideal place to store whisky. Underground there are not the swings in temperature that there are aboveground - it stays cool in the summer and shouldn’t go far below freezing in the winter. If you invest in a whisky cask from a distillery, you could store it down here, and in twenty years you will crack it open on one special night.
It may or may not be a nice place to spend an evening, but I would be cautious - this theater might have ghosts.
And let the action commence
Choose your drinking space carefully - guests should be comfortable and be able to enjoy the whisky to the fullest. The bar should be functional, as well as attractive.
The drama of this evening’s event should live long in the memories, so make sure the stage frames the scene just right.
Once you are set, think about your props which you will have on stage. Other than the whisky itself, I have compiled 10 items you must have in your drinks cabinet and a guide on how to drink the whisky.
Get inspired. Tell us about your home bar project, or if you have seen a home bar you love, in the comments section below!